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Covid Scotland: First pill to treat coronavirus approved for use on NHS – but what is molnupiravir and who can use it?

A new pill to treat coronavirus has approval for use in the UK.

Molnupiravir’s approval by the national medicines regulator makes the UK the first country in the world to have a take-at-home antiviral treatment for Covid.

But what is molnupiravir? How does it help you if you have coronavirus? And who can take the new drug?

We’re answering all your questions about this exciting new treatment.

What is molnupiravir?

Originally developed to treat flu, it reduces the risk of hospitalisation or death for at-risk adults with mild to moderate Covid-19 by 50%:

  • Clinical trials show 7.3% of Covid patients given molnupiravir were hospitalised
  • In comparison, 14.1% of placebo-treated patients were hospitalised or died
Molnupiravir is the first oral drug to treat Covid-19.

It has been created by US drug company Merck (known as MSD in the UK) and is taken orally.

Patients can take it at home rather than in a medical setting with a health professional.

The UK government has so far secured 480,000 courses of treatment.

How does it work?

The treatment works by interfering with the virus’s ability to replicate itself in the body.

It stops the virus from multiplying, reducing the severity of the disease and limiting its effects.

The UK is the first country in the world to approve molnupiravir.

Results from the trial show, for best effect, molnupiravir needs to be taken early after symptoms begin, twice a day.

Healthcare regulators say it should be taken as soon as possible following a positive Covid-19 test, and within five days of symptom onset.

Who is eligible to take the drug?

Those who test positive for Covid and have at least one risk factor for developing severe illness.

According to the NHS, people at higher risk include:

  • Older adults
  • People with severe lung conditions
  • People with Down’s syndrome
  • Those with heart conditions
  • People receiving targeted cancer treatments affecting the immune system
  • Those who have diabetes

If you’re at high risk of severe Covid, you will likely be eligible for the treatment if you test positive for the virus.

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